We empower people and organizations to change the world for good.
Become Change. Experiential learning in real-life social entrepreneurship.
Education that Transforms
About Grassroots U
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
- Nelson Mandela
How is Grassroots U Different?
Grassroots U offers authentic grassroots experiences in urban and rural contexts. Our community-based programs provide an honest and holistic appraisal of social problems as well as a realistic view of the immense challenges and tremendous benefits of solving them.
Why Choose Grassroots U?
Signature Methodology. Our "Practice Pedagogy” uses experiential learning methods steeped in local context to deliver rigorous technical programs.
Best Practice. We use capacity building techniques and social enterprise tools that have helped launch social entrepreneurs who today are considered some of the best in the world.
Social Entrepreneurs. Grassroots U was founded by a pioneering social entrepreneur. Our programs and courses are produced by social enterprise experts, social entrepreneurs, and academics but not volunteer coordinators or tour operators.
Technical Depth. Our technically rigorous content is rooted in the deep experience of Virtue Ventures, the first social enterprise consulting first to specialize in developing countries.
Local Partners. We deliver through local partner based in the community, which enables participants to have intimate and intelligent access to the on-the-ground realities of solving social problems.
Peer Learning. We combine local and international participants in mixed cohorts. The mixed group peer learning environment is instrumental for creating relevant innovative solutions.
Personal and Professional Development. While our programs have elements of study abroad programs, volunteer trips, and personal journeys, Grassroots U is a professional development and capacity-building organization for people who want to make the world a better place.
Social Impact! We build capacity and equip you with skills and experience to help you become an effective Changemaker. We create real on-the-ground opportunities for you to make social impact through consulting and project work for communities, NGOs, and social entrepreneurs.
Aftercare. We have the capacity and expertise to provide consulting and mentoring services to individuals and organizations that want to apply learning, implement social ventures, or sustainability strategies in their own context post trip.
—Tracy Granda, Global Program Management, Flextronics
1998. The first experiential learning program happened when Grassroots U's founder, Kim Alter, was working for Save the Children. Alter brought a group of Moroccan micro finance institution directors to Lebanon on a technical trip to teach them how to manage growth and scale operations. The results were impressive. Trip participants were able to implement lessons.
1998-2004. The success this trip led to more experiential learning programs in lieu of formal classroom training for development practitioners and NGO leaders. Several more trips would follow before we realized we had a product and more still before we had a methodology. 2004 marks the first program dedicated to specifically to "Social Enterprise Startup" for Kazakh and Kyrgyz development practitioners.
2005. The genesis of the first student course came about when Kim Alter began teaching social entrepreneurship at Oxford University in 2005. As an international development professional and social entrepreneur, Alter had been teaching adult practitioners around the world using experiential and applied methods for years. She believed that classroom teaching was an ineffective way to learn about social entrepreneurship. She suggested "putting MBA students on the bus and teaching the course in India." So she did.
2008-2015. "SE Magic Bus" was inaugurated in 2015 as a program under social enterprise consulting firm, Virtue Ventures. Kim Alter joined forces with Archana PIllai to offer programs on a contractual basis for development organizations, social investors, academics, universities, and career changers. Over the years we have seen the impact of our program as alumni have gone on afterwards to do amazing things and returned to tell us how much the program transformed their lives. Our local partners also asked us for more: higher engagement, more trips, more consultants and collaboration.
2015. The name was changed to Grassroots U and the commitment was made to expand our programs and make them more accessible. After years of experience our methodology is now airtight. New frontiers for Grassroots U involve exploring verticals, sectors and technical specializations. For the first time ever, we are offering our social entrepreneurship experiential learning programs to the public. We continue to provide custom programs designed to meet specific learning objectives of development practitioners, professionals, social entrepreneurs, students and others in lieu of traditional classroom instruction, study abroad programs or tours.
Meet Our Team
Sutia Kim Alter
Founder and Managing Director
Sutia “Kim” Alter is a veteran social entrepreneur, expert consultant, author, educator and lecturer. She is also founder of Virtue Ventures, the first social enterprise consulting firm focused on developing countries. She has been advising, teaching, and inspiring social entrepreneurs for almost 30 years in over 45 countries.
Dr. Archana Pillai
India Program Director
Dr. Archana Pillai has worked with Grassroots U in India since 2009. She is responsible for curating and developing Social Enterprise Education programs for international students and practitioner chorts in India. She consults for social ventures, government and academics
and conducts social audits as Director of Practice for Virtue Ventures India.
Africa Liaison & Operations Director
Vincent brings many talents to Grassroots U. He has led Virtue Ventures initiatives in Africa for over a decade and serves as the Africa program liaison for Grassroots U. Vincent also has expertise in operations management, systems design and technology (software) development.
Amelia Pape is a social entrepreneur and a Grassroots U alumni. Amelia is founder of social enterprise, My Street Grocery, a mobile grocer that improves access to fresh food and build communities in Portland area food deserts. Amelia co-leads programs on food justice and resilient food systems.
Keegan is a student at the University of Portland working on earning her bachelor’s degree in Economics. She is an avid traveler and aspiring Social Entrepreneur with a desire to become a global change maker.
Our Many, Many Partners
Knowledge, Venue, Community
Our partners are leaders of social enterprises, NGOs, learning institutions, business and government. They are subject matter experts entrenched in their communities, who can provide a deep technical knowledge and an unvarnished view into critical social issues in an authentic context.